Created: 10/14/2013 5:53 PM WHEC.com
By: Brett Davidsen
He puts on an annual haunted house for his neighbors and friends. But the Town of Greece is calling it a potential fire hazard.
Halloween is just two weeks away and in one Greece neighborhood that usually means visiting the haunted house on Spalding Drive.
It's free and the man who puts it on says about 1,000 people come each year to get the scare of their lives.
But that won't happen this year.
The Town of Greece says he's violating town codes.
Nicholas Vito says he's probably spent $25,000 to $30,000 over the years on his haunted house. Every year he makes it a little bigger and a little more elaborate.
But this year it may have become a little too large, prompting the town to take action.
Vito spends nearly the entire year planning for Halloween and about six weeks setting up an elaborate haunted house in his front yard.
"It's probably about 1,500 square foot walk through with a maze, set design, seven to eight actors that volunteer and a lot of time myself and my dad put in setting it up,” said Vito.
His Halloween fright-fest has become legend in this Greece neighborhood. Last year people lined up and down Spalding Drive, waiting to get in.
"It's been kind of fun. The neighborhood kids like it. Never been a problem," said Mike Stewart, neighbor.
But it has apparently become a problem this year.
Vito already had the big tents set up out front and the gravestones, zombies and other props were already in place, when he got a note on Friday. The note is from the Town of Greece telling him he needs a permit for his haunted house, and Vito says he was ordered to immediately take it down due to code violations.
“How disappointing is it for you?” asked News10NBC's Brett Davidsen.
"You know, it's a little disappointing for me, but I think the community will be more disappointed in it than I am,” said Vito.
So News10NBC went to the town to find out why it pulled the plug on his scare affair.
“He's had this haunted house for 10 years. Why now?” asked Davidsen.
"Well, we've received several complaints from the neighbors recently, which we've investigated and looked into,” said Leo Carrol.
Leo Carroll is Town of Greece building inspector. He says the haunted house has grown to the point where it doesn't meet fire safety codes and could be a hazard.
"We don't want to stop the event. That's not our goal. Our goal is to make sure the public is safe when they go and visit the event,” said Carroll.
Vito says he understands the safety concerns, but says if it was a hazard in the past, the fire department never said anything.
"Last year the Barnard Fire Department came by on their fire truck and handed out candy to kids on Halloween," said Vito.
But Vito says at this point, it's probably too late to get the necessary approvals, and so he has begun tearing down what he has spent a decade building up into a neighborhood tradition.
“I enjoy doing it and I love seeing the people in my community have a good time at it, so I guess this year that won't be the case,” said Vito.
Vito says he does hope to put up some of his displays in his yard on Halloween night. He's also researching the idea of opening his haunted house as a business and finding a location for next year.
A lot of people have Halloween displays set up in their yards, so what exactly were the hazards the town was concerned about?
There were a few things. The biggest hazard being the size of those tents in his yard. The town felt they blocked firefighting capabilities to his house, as well as his neighbors' homes.
Also, because it was open to the public, the building inspector says Vito also needed emergency lighting and other safety measures, like fire retardant materials in order to meet code.